STYLISH IN THE SNOW: BMW'S i8, just launched in South Africa, being put through its paces in Sweden. Image: GKN.
ARJEPLOG, Sweden - GKN has demonstrated a range of new hybrid all-wheel drive (AWD), AWD Disconnect and torque-vectoring technologies that will make future cars smarter, more efficient, and enjoyable to drive, a report says.
Representatives from a number of automakers tested a range of innovative drive-train concepts at the Wintertest ground in Sweden.
The president of Group Technology at GKN, Rob Rickell, said: “By 2025, driven by GKN advances, AWD will be the drive of choice for many drivers and premium cars. There has already been a major shift in the market and the public’s perception of AWD.
"Demand is growing strongly for AWD versions of front-wheel drive platforms and automakers see that AWD makes hybrids and plug-ins a much more attractive purchase proposition.”
Demand for AWD in the smaller cars of the B and C- segments is growing strongly, particularly in markets such as China where the best-selling top-of-the-range models are often AWD, the report said. With a new generation of more fuel-efficient AWD systems now in production, drivers can enjoy more stability and performance.
GKN pioneered the introduction of torque-vectoring technology and AWD Disconnect systems and has invested in the development of hybrid AWD technology. AWD Disconnect systems respond to the driver's input and road conditions to switch seamlessly between all-wheel and two-wheel drive.
GKN is the only large supplier that can produce a complete AWD system in-house, along with the electronics and software. The company is now working with a number of vehicle manufacturers on AWD hybrids that use GKN’s innovative eAxle technology.
Porsche recently awarded GKN Technology Partner Status for its successful completion of the work on the 918 Spyder, an innovative plug-in hybrid supercar.
At Arjeplog, representatives from automakers experienced the latest applications for GKN driveline technologies, as well as a number of prototype systems. The low-friction ice-test tracks produce on-the-limit conditions, making it easier for test drivers to access the AWD system’s full performance.
GKN Driveline’s vice-president of AWD product technology, Rob Genway-Haden, said: “In back-to-back comparisons almost everybody prefers AWD to front- wheel drive. Not everybody realises that, with our latest generation of intelligent AWD systems, the difference in fuel efficiency can be around three percent. By adding our AWD Disconnect, this can be even less.
"About 80% of the losses in an AWD system are frictional. When you disconnect (drife to) the rear axle you remove a lot of the losses. There was particular interest in our AWD Disconnect system for A-segment platforms as it is the only scalable solution.”
Feedback from test drives of GKN’s eAxle systems were claimed to be overwhelmingly positive. A plug-in hybrid with a GKN eAxle can improve fuel economy by as much as 50% while improving performance.
GKN has already supported a number of ground-breaking and commercially successful eAWD programmes, including the
Porche 918 Spyder, the BMW i8, and the Mitsubishi Outlander.
GKN Driveline's vice-president of product technology, eDrive systems, Theo Gassmann, said: “By adding AWD, hybrids become an even more appealing proposition. Automakers see GKN’s eAxles as a way of hybridising FWD platforms to add value. On RWD platforms, they can enable engineers to achieve remarkable things with the power distribution and dynamics.”
Among the vehicles tested and demonstrated were the Range Rover Evoque with standard and Active Drivelines; the BMW i8 with GKN’s two-speed eAxle; the Jeep Renegade with GKN’s AWD Disconnect system for compact SUV's and the BMW X6 with GKN’s electronic torque vectoring system.